10/24/2013 12:55 EDT

CGI Group, Canadian Builder Of Obamacare Site, Faces House Grilling

The Canadian company that built the Obamacare website came under attack in the U.S. Congress on Thursday, as politicians from both sides of the aisle sought to lay blame for the site’s glitch-ridden rollout.

Montreal-based CGI Group built, the website that hosts Obamacare insurance exchanges for 36 participating states. Since it went live on Oct. 1, the site has suffered from a litany of computer problems that are keeping consumers from signing up and buying insurance on the health care exchanges.

Republican lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee questioned whether CGI and other contractors had hidden problems ahead of the launch, or whether the federal agencies responsible were “incompetent,” the Globe and Mail reported.

House Democrats suggested the Republicans were simply trying another tack in their fight to stop Obamacare.

“Their effort obviously isn’t to make this better, but to use the website and the glitches as an excuse to defund or repeal Obamacare,” New Jersey Democrat Frank Pallone said.

But the Obamacare glitches have created problems for Democratic politicians facing re-election in 2014 who were hoping to run on the law's new benefits for millions of uninsured Americans.

One House Democrat says the president needs to "man up" and fire somebody, while others are calling for signup deadlines to be extended and a reconsideration of the penalties individuals will face next year if they remain uninsured.

Cheryl Campbell, senior vice-president of CGI Federal, the U.S. subsidiary that built the site, suggested in prepared testimony that Congress should look beyond the contractors.

The Department of Health and Human Services "serves the important role of systems integrator or 'quarterback' on this project and is the ultimate responsible party for the end-to-end performance," she said.

Overwhelming interest from consumers triggered the website problems, she said.

"No amount of testing within reasonable time limits can adequately replicate a live environment of this nature," she said.

The U.S. government has paid CGI at least $88 million U.S. to build and support the federal exchange.

But glitches plagued the CGI-built website from the moment it launched Oct. 1.

Blank boxes where security questions are supposed to appear. Pleas to ‘be patient.’ Error messages galore. Notices that ‘the system is busy right now.’ Web pages timing out before they load. Garbled lines of text riddled with stray question marks,” Reuters reported.

And the glitches had a substantial impact. According to an AP-GfK poll, three-quarters of visitors to the site reported problems signing up.

With earlier reporting and files from the Associated Press

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